So, some of us have excellent friends who buy us tickets to see Waiting for Godot and then come with us to see it. (To be quite honest, Motley Productions could have advertised for the play a little more efficiently, but I daresay someone who followed theatre news with more avidity than I would’ve known about it – actually, someone did. still. One would not know unless one were looking for the information. This is why Bangalore’s theatre scene is torpid, darlings. It’s not us, it’s you.)
Anyway, we arrived on time, got in fine, yaddi yadda. We paid serious attention to the gravely ponderous IFA infomercial. (The background music suggested that someone important and beautiful was going to die tragically any moment.)
Finally. Estragon wrestled with his shoe as Vladimir walked on. My friend (henceforth referred to as R.) and I never quite warmed to Akash Khurana’s portrayal of Vladimir – it felt always like he was portraying someone else, from some other play, using V’s lines. (Too, R. agrees with me that his behaviour with the little boy who announces Godot’s absence was a little creepy.) Benjamin Gilani as Estragon is delightfully natural and unnatural at once, just as a Beckett speaker should be.
The play didn’t drag – though one did tend to phase in and out simply because the dialogue demanded we do some thinking. Even Pozo and Lucky couldn’t keep R. following the linear narrative (such as it is). Naseeruddin Shah – is anyone, ever, allowed to be critical of Shah? – was lovely. He commanded the stage – I’m not sure whether it’s a stage presence or sheer volume of personality as a real life person, but there are moments when it’s impossible to look at anyone else. Lucky was played by an obviously bewigged, very young and fit Randeep Hooda. (Sometimes very unconvincingly. He just looked too strong to be as tired as he was supposed to be. R. insists that there always ought to be eye-candy, and I am torn between agreeing and booing the costumers for not covering up his chest. Old men should look old, people!)
Three-fourths through the first act, a smartly-dressed woman walked determinedly on the stage. Someone, she announced, had parked their car(s) in front of her garage. She wanted them moved. Now. It took us a while to realise she wasn’t a part of the play. Shah stood up, announced that the show would not go on, and walked out. Our first artistic hissy fit! Gilani and co. followed him off. Five minutes later, people were walking out, people were staying in their seats, and finally Gilani came onstage and asked us to wait while the whole mess was sorted out. Our compere talks about how the incident was a disgrace, and in general an insult to both the artists and the audience. (R. says she’d side with the woman with the garage, who is obviously the injured party. Some people have no sense of space, shame, or other people’s entitlements.)
Licence plate numbers were called out, and shamefaced audience members went out to deal with their cars as everyone else applauded their civic sense.
The show went on. Luckily, we’d stopped just a few lines before “In the meantime, nothing happens.” More applause. We hadn’t quite settled in yet to the play, as opposed to the parking drama outside.
Intermission! Which is good, we needed the break. WfG is not a play that’s easy to follow – it’s not meant to be “followed”, but you can’t help trying. It doesn’t help that right in front us people were going “I don’t get it” and variations thereof.
Second act, second verse, more of the same. I was flagging a bit by now, and seriously, if it weren’t for Gilani I think I’d’ve gone to sleep. Khurana did not work for me, and since Vladimir does more angsting this is a problem.
At the curtain’s final close, more applause – as much relief as jubilation. Naseeruddin Shah (it was something of a relief to see him coming onto the stage tidy: in the second act, Pozo is a bit bedraggled) apologised to thew audience for losing his temper and his strong language in the first act. “To me, theatre is the most scared thing in my life,” he said. “And the audience is also sacred.” Naseeruddin Shah thinks we’re sacred! I am thrilled, R. is literally laughing at me. Apparently I should not wait for Shah to validate my sacredness.
Shah did acknowledge the woman who walked in and disturbed the proceedings – it’s not everyone who can walk into a reputed theatre, on to the stage, interrupt a performance and demand her rights. “I think maybe she wants to be an actress!” Shah said. He found this so funny he repeated it. (We love him even so.)
Bestest beginning to a birthday, ever.